Women in Trucking: Where the Industry’s Been and Where It’s Going

October 22nd, 2021


It may surprise you to know that women have been involved in the trucking industry since the early 1900s. Part of why that may be surprising is because despite the long history of involvement, female trucking statistics still point to a limited number of women truck drivers as compared to men.  

Recently, however, the percentage of female truck drivers has been on the rise with an almost 30% increase between 2018 and 2019 alone. According to a survey conducted by Freightwaves, women made up over 10% of over-the-road truck drivers in 2019. To better understand this trend, let’s explore how women in trucking have evolved over time and why recruiting, hiring, and supporting women truckers is crucial to the industry’s vitality. 

History of Women in Trucking

While multiple women contributed to the early days of female trucking, one woman named Luella Bates is credited as the first woman to obtain her commercial truck driver’s license. She was one of 150 women hired in 1918 to drive for Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. (FWD) in Clintonville, Wisconsin, while the men were away at war.  

Woman driving a truck, representing the history of women in trucking.

At the end of World War I, rather than return to her home like many of the women in the trucking industry did, Bates continued on at FWD and took her first interstate tour in 1920. Luella Bates’s passion for the transportation industry led her to become the face of female trucking. Her story is just one of many female truck drivers’ stories that demonstrate the early successes of women in the trucking industry. 

A Look at the Trucking Labor Market

Over the last few years, the pandemic increased demand for drivers in the trucking industry and illustrated exactly how much people and our economy rely on trucking.  

While there was already a trucking workforce shortage, the need for qualified truck drivers along with other vital positions in the industry has only expanded. Forecasters report this trend is expected to continue for some time. According to the American Trucking Associations, if current industry trends continue, the trucker shortage could grow to 160,000 drivers by 2028. 

Due to the higher median age of trucker drivers, which is 46 for over-the-road drivers and 57 for private fleet drivers, one of the biggest factors will simply be replacing retired drivers. Beyond that, industry growth will account for another portion of new hire needs. Overall, the American Trucking Associations expects the trucking industry will need approximately 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade.  

To fill these roles, it will be imperative that trucking companies attract female truck drivers. Although females comprised 57.4% of the general U.S. workforce in 2019, they only accounted for 10% of the 3.6 million truck drivers. This untapped population has the potential to help ease the labor shortage. 

Why Should You Hire Female Truckers?

There are several reasons why hiring female truck drivers is worth consideration.  

As previously mentioned, data shows only 10% of drivers are women and there is a significant shortage of drivers in the industry. Increasing the number of women in this workforce will be integral to ensuring we have adequate drivers for the current demand. 

In addition to the hiring need, data shows women are a great fit for this position. Studies show women are more risk averse than men, which makes them ideal for truck driving. Trucking statistics show that females are less likely to be involved in a fatal crash and female drivers log more miles each year than their male counterparts.  

Another advantage of hiring female truckers is they have a lower turnover rate as compared to the industry average for men. These women in trucking statistics alone make a strong case for hiring female truckers. 

7 Tips for Hiring Women Truckers

Are you wondering if your company is taking the right steps to hire women truckers? Here are 7 tips to help you focus your efforts on attracting and retaining female trucking candidates. 

1. Clearly Demonstrate Your Desire to Hire Women Truckers

Look at your marketing and recruitment materials and be sure women are represented. All too often, advertisements for trucks and trucking companies only include male drivers. Show women you are looking to hire them by targeting your recruiting advertisements at a female trucking audience. 

2. Explain Why Hiring Female Truckers Is Important to Your Fleet

Are you looking to hire female truck drivers because of their safety records and competency behind the wheel? Make sure to express the right reasons to your potential hires and avoid expressing an interest in hiring simply to fill a quota.  

3. Promote Gender Equality on Your Staff

While attracting female truck drivers is important, you also need to be sure that whether or not you have any females on your team, you cultivate an environment of gender equality. Male staff should be trained to see females as team members that deserve respect and equal treatment. Ensure your company takes a stand and enforces a no-tolerance policy toward sexism. 

4. Ensure Trucking Equipment Is Ergonomically Oriented Toward Women

Most trucks and trucking equipment are designed for the male build, which makes it more challenging for women, who may be shorter and weigh less, to operate controls and find a comfortable position in the cab. Truck manufacturers now make cabs designed ergonomically for women. Invest in these trucks to ensure female drivers can operate the vehicles comfortably. 

5. Invest in Technology and Tools to Foster Health and Safety

The trucking industry has advanced substantially with the help of new technology. Embrace and invest in technology to make truck driving less physical and more technologically advanced. By ordering your trucks with as much new technology as your budget allows, you can make it easier to attract and retain truck drivers. 

6. Establish and Promote Safety Protocols

Safety is a substantial concern for females in trucking who will be out on the road, oftentimes on their own. Work to provide a safe workplace and create systems to keep your team protected from harassment or unsafe conditions while out on the road. 

7. Provide Education, Training, and Support

Help female drivers experience success in the trucking industry by providing them with education, training, and support. Teach women in trucking everything they need to know to be successful in their position and include training for how to avoid unsafe situations. Provide mentorship programs and counseling to ensure female drivers have the tools they need to thrive.  

Advice for Aspiring Women Truckers

By now, you know the time is right for women to join the trucking industry. Keep reading to get advice for women interested in joining this booming industry. 

graphic depicting several tips for women truckers.

1. Finding a School or Training Program

When shopping for a truck driving school or training program, be sure to find one that will not overcharge you or cause you to go into excessive debt. You will need to pay to obtain your commercial driver’s license (CDL), but the cost should fall between $3,000 and $7,000.  

2. Grants and Scholarships for Women in Trucking

Keep in mind that there are grants and scholarships available to help pay for trucking school. You do not need to repay these financial aid awards and they can range in value up to covering all of your training. Grants and scholarships can be found on your own, through female trucking organizations, or by reaching out to your school or training program to find out what is available at your school. 

3. Joining Women Trucking Organizations

Joining organizations founded to support and further the agenda of women in trucking is a great way to tap into a support system. It can feel lonely on the road for any truck driver, but especially for women who have to consider their safety and surroundings in a manner that’s different from male truck drivers.  

Women trucking organizations, like Women In Trucking, can connect women truckers to each other and provide them with a community so they feel less alone in the industry and can learn from others.  

4. Choose the Right Company

Select your employer carefully and find a trucking company that values and respects you. Some companies are working to improve female trucking conditions and offer growth opportunities. You want to choose a company with a culture that aligns with your needs and values and facilitates your growth. 

5. Trip Plan for Success

Planning your trips is vital to your success. You’ll want to plan everything from routes and safety precautions to meals and bathroom breaks. By taking the time to plan ahead of your trips, you can lessen your risk of having undesirable events occur. 

6. Connect With Other Truckers

Reaching out to other truck drivers is an excellent way to build a network of people in the industry you can turn to for advice and support. Having connections with other truckers allows everyone to feel supported and encouraged. Social media platforms offer an easy way to get tips and see how other women experience life as truck drivers. 

Executive and Leadership Roles for Women

Driving a truck isn’t the only way women enter the trucking industry. There is a wealth of positions currently held by as well as available to female applicants beyond driving positions. Women own and operate fleets and hold other management and leadership roles at an increasing rate. Recent statistics point to at least 47% of the trucking industry workforce being women.   

Equip Your Team for the Future of Trucking with Hale Trailer

As demand for truckers continues to exceed supply, encouraging women to enter the trucking workforce and supporting female trucking drivers, leaders, and managers once in their roles is imperative to the industry and our economy.  

At Hale Trailer, we know how important it is to source quality equipment as your fleet needs grow and change. We are proud to be the largest independent trailer dealer in North America, and our knowledgeable team is ready to help you find the best new or used semi-truck equipment available for rent or purchase. Visit one of our locations near you today! 

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